While government sanctioned discrimination in the form of Jim Crow laws were successfully dismantled by the Civil Rights Movement, Martin Luther King Jr. understood that legislation alone could not change the root cause of such laws, the hearts of men. In his sermon, The Goodness of the Good Samaritan, he wrote, “It may be true that morality cannot be legislated, but behavior can be regulated. Judicial decrees may not change the heart, but they can restrain the heartless.”
The result of that restraint is a racial limbo that leads to the racial unrest that came to a head in 2020 as a result of the murder of George Floyd, the murder of Ahmad Arbery, and the murder of Breonna Taylor.
As we reflect on MLK Day, consider how hearts can be changed. Many hearts were changed as the world watched the light of life go out of George Floyd while an officer of the law applied the weight of his entire body on his neck. Many allies were gained as we watched Covid 19 ravage communities of color due to what was clear to Dr. King in 1966 when he addressed a group of medical professionals and said, “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health is the most shocking and the most inhuman because it often results in physical death.”
It shouldn’t take a loss of life for us all to examine our hearts to see what we could do better in order for America to live up to its promise to all of its citizens. Whether you care about the lives that have been lost or the businesses that have been impacted, we all have a stake in resolving the inequities that exist in our society. Dr. King did his part, he lost his life doing his part. On this MLK Day let’s make a pledge to do our part. Let’s examine our hearts and make individual changes that promote unity and diversity so that we all have a chance to live the promise of America.
MLK Quotes to inspire you to examine your heart.
“One day, some great opportunity stands before you and calls you to stand up for some great principle, some great issue, some great cause. And you refuse to do it because you are afraid… You refuse to do it because you want to live longer…. Well, you may go on to live until you are 90, but you’re just as dead at 38 as you would be at 90.” ~1967 Sermon at Ebenezer Baptist Church
“Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” ~1963 “Strength of Love” a book of sermons
“Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.” ~1967 Sermon: Three Dimensions of a Complete Life
“An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.” ~1957 Speech: Conquering Self-Centeredness